Uncharted: the lost legacy
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. And for treasure
Chloe Frazer’s stepping into Nate’s shoes for this standalone spin-off.
Where do we start? The slow-burning and intelligent relationship between protagonist Chloe and hired merc Nadine, or the towering stone statues of Hindu gods jutting out from the jungle canopy? The immaculate pacing, or headshots with the golden silenced pistol? You’d better get comfortable, because we’ll be here a while. First: yes, The Lost Legacy is an expansion done right. And after 2014’s superlative-defying The Last of Us: Left Behind, this six(ish)-hour spectacle further demonstrates that Sony’s prized first-party studio understands how to do narrative expansions better than anyone. The secret, it seems, is to narrow the scope, and drill down into the characters. Naturally, then, protagonist Chloe Frazer and hired gun Nadine Ross find themselves at the centre of a more personal and intimate adventure than Uncharted 4 provided. In the winding streets and wild canopies of civil-war-torn India, these two stubbornly independent characters with muddy allegiances search for the Tusk Of Ganesh at a pace closer to real-time than the swashbuckling, globe-hopping base games dictate. And it’s all the better for it – in this extra time and space the characters express themselves on a deeper level, presumably glad not to be constantly applying for travel visas and booking flights like Nate and Sully must.
Off the chart
Famed as the series with the cheeriest mass murderer ever as its protagonist, Uncharted has never been the kind of weighty character study Daniel Day-Lewis and Mark Rylance would lick their lips over, but its writing has always served the game as a whole beautifully. It’s to Naughty Dog’s credit that The Lost Legacy has a slower pace and slightly less quippy tone and still finds absolute harmony with the mechanics and objectives. It couldn’t do so if Chloe Frazer weren’t such a fantastic and charismatic lead – seriously, someone give Claudia Black an Oscar. After, er, first establishing an Oscar category for videogame work. She’s breezy, capable, and human, ticking the very same boxes Nathan Drake does but doing so in her own distinct way.
Black and her supporting cast reach new highs with Naughty Dog’s formidable performance capture tech, not in fight scenes (although we’d like to give a shout-out to the final act two-on-one melee brawl) but in nuanced conversations with a little girl at a sari stall in the opening scene, with Nadine throughout, and intermittently with chief adversary Asav. And yes, he is a warlord
with an improbably well-equipped private army, since you ask. But that’s actually kind of the point: like previous Un-charteds, The Lost Legacy is absolutely spilling over with clichés, the like of which you’d crucify a Brendan Fraser movie for. Somehow, though, they never grate here. It doesn’t seem to matter that the main plot arc’s broadly the same as it has been since Drake’s Fortune. What matters is that you like the hero, dislike the villain, and enjoy the ride.
And you do – even if you’re a hardened contrarian, you do. But there are factors working to The Lost Legacy’s detriment, and they probably stem from its origins as a more modest DLC offering before Naughty Dog, by its own admission, got carried away and dreamed up a substantial adventure. After leaving urban India for the jungle, you’re confronted with many very recognisable art assets from Uncharted 4: the leafy platforms, the muddy paths, the ancient ruins, and the 4x4 rides between them all. Again, the tonal differentiation from A Thief’s End helps to keep at bay the feeling that you’re playing a remix of one of the base game’s levels, such is the distrusting and initially grumpy dynamic between Chloe and Nadine. But even as that dynamic becomes more interesting as the two grow to understand each other, you’re very aware that you’ve hidden behind these waist-high crates and swung above this jungle vegetation before, and quite recently.
Enjoy the ride
Seeing the same shrubs again can be forgiven as a concession to the costs of triple-A development. The game’s final set-piece (minor spoilers ahead), on the other hand, can’t be shrugged off as easily. Having double-crossed, clambered, shot, and stolen their way towards a denouement, Chloe and Nadine find themselves on – you’ll kick yourself – a train ride. And not just a train ride with a passing resemblance to Uncharted 2’s iconic railway battle, but one that plays out almost identically. Clearly it’s intended as a knowing nod, a bit of an indulgence for long-time fans, but the reality is that playing through it again in such a mechanically identical fashion – jump the carriage, shoot the vehicles, have a quick fistfight here and there – doesn’t feel additive or nostalgic, it just feels a bit boring, and a flat ending to an episode that elsewhere does such a good job to avoid feeling repurposed. Naughty Dog should be held to its own impossibly high standards, and this simply doesn’t hit them.
Still, if a game’s biggest problem is that it features a facsimile of one of the greatest videogame levels of all time, that’s a pretty good problem to have. And on our notepad of otherwise trivial grievances, it’s the only one worth mentioning. Elsewhere The Lost Legacy is just a constant delight. The evolving relationship between its two central characters might be the engine that really powers it along, but the tried-and-tested combat, inventive puzzles, and giant set-pieces certainly help. The biggest level in Uncharted history awaits you here, and within it are axe-wielding mechanical statues that might slice you if you step onto the wrong platform, mountain-scale depictions of Shiva and Ganesh with convoluted plumbing systems, an old-school light-bouncing puzzle with some inimitable Uncharted improv thrown in, and plenty of collaborative environmental navigation.
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the clever use of colour throughout everything, or Chloe’s more martial arts-focused style of melee combat. Crikey, or the new lockpicking mechanic. Or a heart-melting moment involving an animal which international spoiler laws prohibit me from mentioning specifically. Well we told you we’d be here a while, didn’t we?
“Chloe Frazer is a fantastic and charismatic lead – someone give Claudia Black an Oscar”
Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s climbable. And yes,
its inner workings are constructed from spatial puzzles.